Nfld. & Labrador

Classic car owners come together for St. John's teen in need of guide dog

Brandon Joy, 18, was born with a rare condition called retinitis pigmentosa. Deemed legally blind by the time he started Grade 8, the condition has caused Joy to lose all of his night vision and the majority of his peripheral vision.

'It means a lot,' says Brandon Joy

Brandon Joy lives with a rare eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa. He hopes a fundraising campaign put on by Wheels for Wishes will help him get a guide dog. (Emma Grunwald/CBC)

Cars and bikes of all kinds came together for a Wheels for Wishes fundraiser Saturday, working to raise $50,000 for a St. John's youth in need of a guide dog.

Brandon Joy, 18, was born with a rare condition called retinitis pigmentosa. Deemed legally blind by the time he started Grade 8, the condition has caused Joy to lose his night vision and the majority of his peripheral vision. He currently has seven per cent of his vision.

Joy is preparing to start university in the fall, studying education in the hopes of becoming a teacher. He says it would be life-changing if enough money is raised to help him get a guide dog.

"If I get a guide dog, it's going to make my life a lot easier," he said.

"My shins will be a lot safer," he added, laughing. "I'll just be a lot safer in general."

Cars of all kinds drove across the Goulds neighbourhood of St. John's in a parade to help fundraise for Brandon's guide dog. (Emma Grunwald/CBC)

The fundraising has been made possible by Wheels for Wishes, a group of motor enthusiasts and volunteers giving back to communities across the province through charity car shows and donations.

The group paired with the local chapter of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind about a year and a half ago to begin fundraising for "Buddy Dogs" — dogs that are not quite fully-trained to be a guide dog, but help people transition to a guide dog later in life.

Amanda Halliday, the CNIB's co-ordinator of community giving, said the partnership has translated to helping people across the province gain freedom through being paired with a guide dog.

"The automobile community in Newfoundland and Labrador is very charitable," she said. "They're amazing people … they just want to help people."

Amanda Halliday, the CNIB's co-ordinator of community giving, hopes the groups can raise $50,000 by the end of the summer. (Emma Grunwald/CBC)

Halliday said the $50,000 goal would cover the costs of a guide dog for a family — raising the dog, different levels of training and food and vet costs.

"Hopefully they will be able to raise it by the end of the summer … I think they're almost there, but every cent counts," she said.

While getting the chance to see all the different kinds of vehicles take part in a parade through the Goulds neighbourhood of St. John's, Joy said it was easy to feel the level of support for his family and their goal of getting a guide dog.

"It means a lot. There's a lot of great people here to support me, and I'm really happy that I'm able to get such an amazing group of people to help me out and fundraise money for my dog."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Emma Grunwald

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